Secret meetings & a 10-year project – How David Beckham signed Lionel Messi as revealed by the Inter Miami co-owner

  • Argentine icon chasing American dream
  • Moved to Florida as a free agent
  • Decade-long pursuit brought to a close

WHAT HAPPENED? The ambitious MLS outfit pulled off quite the coup when luring seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi to Florida after seeing him reach the end of his contract at Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain. Rival interest from Barcelona and teams in Saudi Arabia was fended off in order to land the iconic Argentine, with a decade-long pursuit reaching a remarkable conclusion.

WHAT THEY SAID: Manchester United and England legend Beckham, who is now a co-owner at Inter Miami, has told The Athletic of how the wheels to sign Messi were first put in motion. He said: “It all came from a conversation over a glass of wine at dinner. I turn to Jorge (Mas) and say, ‘One day, we need Messi to come to our club’. It was probably when we first met. I actually found on my phone the other day one of the first presentations that (advertising agency) Doubleday & Cartwright did — they mocked up one of the jerseys with the logo on and Leo was wearing it. That was 10 years ago. So it was always in my mind. I suppose every owner of a sports franchise thinks, ‘We want to bring the best players to our club’. Does it happen for everyone? Of course not. But we were sat at dinner and we were like, ‘OK, if we could bring Leo for our market, for our fans, for this part of the world, there’s no one better’.”

Beckham has also revealed that he headed to Barcelona for a secret meeting with Messi’s representatives in September 2019. He added: “We got on a plane and flew to Barcelona from London secretly. We snuck into a hotel, met Jorge Messi (Lionel’s father and agent) and started the conversation. It purely went, ‘We would love your son to play for our team one day. We know he can’t come yet, but one day we would love to have Leo in Miami’. Then obviously Jorge did an incredible job creating a narrative around what he could do for the sport in this country, what he could do for MLS and what he could do for Inter Miami.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Messi is now in Miami and Beckham – who made quite the impact in America when making his own move to the LA Galaxy in 2007 – admits that he is still pinching himself at getting the historic deal across the line. He said: “This will be up there with the biggest moves in American sporting history. And we’re talking about the biggest sporting market in the world. Bringing Leo Messi to Inter Miami, to MLS, the year after he wins the World Cup, to a team that is three years old… it’s a hell of an achievement. I never thought I would have the same feeling as an owner as I had when I was a player. When I got the phone call, I had the feeling I had when I walked out at Old Trafford or Wembley. I was like, ‘We’ve just beaten all competition to sign the greatest player to ever play our game’.”


Lionel Messi Inter Miami goal 2023Getty

Lionel Messi Inter Miami 2023Getty

Lionel Messi Inter Miami David BeckhamGetty

WHAT NEXT? Messi has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Inter Miami, with the option for an extension through 2026, and he has made an immediate impact in the States by scoring three goals through his opening two appearances and attracting A-list stars aplenty to DRV PNK Stadium.